Shearer: 'I love this club and I believe I can help it'

As the Newcastle hero takes charge, Michael Walker reports on why he might just achieve the impossible

They say that you should judge a man by the company he keeps – and so, when Alan Shearer makes his return to Newcastle United this afternoon, it might be worth considering the men either side of the Geordie hero as he trots up the steps into St James' Park once more. Shearer is perceived as dull and wooden by many but those who know Shearer well know a different individual – and by having Iain Dowie and Paul Ferris alongside him, Shearer is making an immediate statement.

Shearer left school in Gosforth in 1986, aged 16, to become an apprentice footballer at Southampton. He had one CSE – in English – and no interest in academia. When he sits down with Dowie and Ferris to discuss the immediate future at a football club seemingly hell-bent on hysteria, Shearer will be talking to an engineering degree student in Dowie and in Ferris a qualified barrister who has a masters degree in the history of ideas. One thing even Shearer's critics acknowledge: he is no mug.

There cannot be many more academically qualified former footballers than Dowie and Ferris, and though in time – if this eight-game spell is a success – Shearer will bring in more obvious Newcastle figures such as Rob Lee, he has in the first instance shown an ability to recognise the differing talent of others and to delegate.

That is a start. What Shearer then brings to the Newcastle dressing room – any dressing room – is a personality that fills it (not the one who looks vaguely uncomfortable on Match of the Day) and inspires it.

As Sir Bobby Robson said when recommending Shearer for the post: "Alan will make a very good manager – he's got clout. Alan might not have any experience but he knows what the club is all about, he knows the supporters, he knows how they feel and he'd be dedicated to it."

"I got a call over the weekend off Derek Llambias [managing director] and Mike Ashley and I went round for a chat," said Shearer. "They asked if I would take charge for the remaining eight games and I asked for a little time to think and spoke to a few people. It's a club I love and I, like many thousands of people, desperately don't want the club to go down and I will do everything I can to try to prevent that. It's a tough situation and I feel deeply for this club. I believe I can help it along with the players. This is for an eight-game spell, I'm looking no further than that."

What Dowie brings is coaching experience. Dowie is known and trusted but his choice is proof of Shearer's sometimes unpredictable nature. In Ferris's case, there is vast experience of football and Newcastle United, for whom he first played as a 16-year-old in May 1982. As Gary Speed put it yesterday, what Shearer has already done is reveal his "common sense".

Speed, a former Newcastle team-mate, golfing partner and close friend, is not unbiased, but Speed describes the sudden Newcastle-Shearer development as "the best thing that could have happened at this time. Imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like against Chelsea on Saturday. That is down to one man. There is a lot of talk about experience and lack of it, but how do you get it? What I'd say is that management is about leadership and character and Alan has that. He is not the man you see on the telly, but then it's not just Alan Shearer who is restrained when on TV."

The Alan Shearer that former playing colleagues know is someone who was one of the lads off the pitch. Shearer has long been fully aware of his market rate, and has transformed the fabled sheet metal-worker's son into a multimillionaire, but while always at the back when it came to running exercises in training, Shearer was to the front when Newcastle players were having nights out on the Quayside and elsewhere.

However, unless you count decking Keith Gillespie outside a bar in Dublin on one Newcastle socialising trip as reckless, Shearer has managed to stay away from the more lurid headlines that afflicted footballers, several of whom were colleagues at Newcastle. Those who know him say the common sense kicks in. He is acutely aware that he is not just the "Al" his mates know, but the public figure who is Alan Shearer.

He understood this quickly. Given his ferocious match-defining abilities, Shearer could easily have got carried away in an era when celebrity culture was beginning to infect football, but he was aware from the earliest England and title-winning days at Blackburn Rovers of the weight of his opinion. Shearer's words can cause tremors like few others' in English football and that is one reason why he became set on hiding behind a device even he called "Shearer-speak".

Among friends that iron curtain comes down and as he wades into the water of management, with its press conference treadmill, Shearer will be expected to give away little pieces of himself. But it will be little by little.

And yet amid that caginess, there is a gambler – and a romantic – to add to the professional public figure and streetwise football man.

It is not just that Shearer has an interest in horseflesh that can lead him into the betting ring: when he made the two most important football decisions of his playing career, on each occasion Shearer shunned the favourite's option of joining Manchester United. In leaving Southampton in 1992, where he and Dowie overlapped for a year, Shearer famously spurned Alex Ferguson for Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn; in leaving Blackburn four years later, Shearer bought into Kevin Keegan's vision at Newcastle rather than, again, Ferguson's trophy parade at Old Trafford. This is not ruthless career progression, this is speculation.

And it went sour. Sitting alone with Shearer at St James' one day late in 1998, he reflected that, with Keegan's departure six months after his arrival, his first bad injury and then Dalglish's dismissal, he was not experiencing "the dream sold to me by Kevin Keegan". It was a difficult period at the club and the rumour of his imminent sale was unrelenting. His tone was downbeat. It felt that a wrong choice had been made at the end of Ewood Park and that the greatest striker of his generation, arguably the greatest English player of his generation, would go unfulfilled. Shearer's response to that notion was: "The club is unfulfilled, not just me. And I'm part of this club."

Although there were excellent Champions League days under Bobby Robson, a record number of goals for the club and an unforgettable testimonial night, that reply remains almost a Newcastle motto.

Shearer is now in a position to change that. But only if his impact is instant. There is a belief that due to the state Newcastle have got themselves into, Shearer is in a win-win situation even if the club is relegated. But a couple of losses soon change opinion. Shearer may be football-smart, possess common sense and natural clout, but this is still a gamble. It is another one featuring Newcastle United.

Where can Shearer pick up points?

The magic mark of 40 points is often touted as the watermark for Premier League survival, and with Newcastle lying in the relegation zone with just 29 points and eight matches remaining, Alan Shearer faces a big challenge. Home matches against Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Fulham have become must-wins, while anything from trips to Stoke, Spurs, Liverpool and Villa will be a bonus. Here's where points may come:

Sat: Chelsea (h) 0

11 April: Stoke (a) 0

19 April: Tottenham (a) 1

27 April: Portsmouth (h) 3

2 May: Liverpool (a) 0

9 May: Middlesbrough (h) 3

16 May: Fulham (h) 3

24 May: Aston Villa (a) 0

Total: 39

Who's who? Coaching staff

Iain Dowie Former QPR manager has been out of work since October. Now joins Shearer's coaching staff.

Joe Kinnear Appointed "interim" manager in November, before being asked to take charge until the end of the season. Recent heart surgery has clouded his future at the club; an executive role has been hinted at.

Chris Hughton First coach, then caretaker manager, before becoming assistant under Kinnear, Hughton has been in charge since Kinnear's absence. May now find himself back on balls, bibs and cones duty.

Dennis Wise Joined in January last year in a nebulous role Mike Ashley describes as Executive Director (Football). Contract takes him to the end of season – will he leave earlier?

Colin Calderwood Former Nottingham Forest manager joined club as first-team coach in January, but since February he has been helping Hughton manage the team.

Four finding it hard to manage

Several of Alan Shearer's England team mates at Euro '96, have flirted with Premiership management this season:

Tony Adams Just three months and 16 league games after succeeding Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, he was shown the door as Pompey slid towards the bottom.

Gareth Southgate Successive finishes in the bottom half and a place in the relegation zone this season have led supporters to query Southgate's managerial capabilities, although chairman Steve Gibson has continued to pledge his support.

Paul Ince After surprisingly landing the Blackburn Rovers job last summer, Ince departed after just five months, leaving Rovers lying second bottom.

And not forgetting a great rival...

Roy Keane The Irishman struggled to adapt to life in the top flight following promotion, leaving Sunderland just 15 games into the season with the Black Cats struggling for consistency.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past